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PROLOGUE                                7

have done with. Between being well understood, however,
and being called great, China would have preferred the
former, and it would have been better for everybody all round.
But how is China to be understood? Who will be her inter-
preters? There is that long history of hers, covering a multitude
of kings and emperors and sages and poets and scholars and
brave mothers and talented women. There are her arts and
philosophies, her paintings and her theatres, which provide
the common people with all the moral notions of good and
evil, and that tremendous mass of folk literature and folklore.
The language alone constitutes an almost hopeless barrier.
Can China be understood merely through pidgin English?
Is the Old China Hand to pick up an understanding of the
soul of China from his cook and amah? Or shall it be from
his Number One Boy? Or shall it be from his compradore and
shroff, or by reading the correspondence of the North China
Daily News? The proposition is manifestly unfair.

Indeed, the business of trying to understand a foreign nation
with a foreign culture, especially one so different from one's
own as China's, is usually not for the mortal man.  For this
work there is need for broad, brotherly feeling, for the feeling
of the common bond of humanity and the cheer of good fellow-
ship.  One must feel with the pulse of the heart as well as see
with the eyes of the mind.   There must be, too, a certain
detachment, not from the country under examination, for
that is always so, but from oneself and one's subconscious
notions, and from the deeply imbedded notions of one's child-
hood and the equally tyrannous ideas of one's adult days,
from those big words with capital letters like Democracy,
Prosperity, Capital, and Success and Religion and Dividends.
One needs a little detachment, and a little simplicity of mind,
too, that simplicity of mind so well typified by Robert Burns,
one of the most Scottish and yet most universal of all poets,
who strips our souls bare and reveals our common humanity
and the loves and sorrows that common humanity is heir to.
Only with that detachment and that simplicity of mind can
one understand a foreign nation.

Who will, then, be her interpreters?   The problem is an
almost  insoluble  one.    Certainly not  the sinologues   and